Why I won't buy Androids

I was talking about new phones with a friend a few days ago, and he asked about Android choices. I told him I won't buy any Androids, for a bunch of reasons. This is social media, I'm into my second boozy eggnog. I figure I'll share those reasons here too. Most of the reasons are around Google itself, and some how it's handled Android. Only one is because I'm a petty bitch with a collection of heirloom grudges.

First and foremost, Google is an advertising company with a search engine and a browser and a video hosting service and a mobile operating system all designed to keep your eyes and ears on their advertisements. For FY2022, 80% of Google's revenue came from advertising. Given the lengths I go to avoid ads everywhere else, putting a little ad machine in my pocket doesn't make much sense.

Aside: I go to extreme lengths to block ads. I have a very aggressive PiHole setup. My daily browsing is through Vivaldi (which has a built-in ad blocker) (But the new Direct Match stuff defaulting to On is pretty fuckin' shitty, Vivaldi) and also running an over-packed μBlock extension. Secondary browsing goes through Firefox with a similarly-configured μBlock. I also have a WireGuard VPN running on my iPhone so whenever I'm not on my own WiFi network I'm tunneling back in just to use my PiHole. Vivaldi on iPhone also has a built-in ad-blocker.

Besides the ad biz, I don't trust Google overall. It started with Google Reader, but Google is quick to drop the blade on the neck of any product/service/app that doesn't have a VP championing it. The other recognizable names include Google Wave, Google+, Google Fiber, and Google Stadia. What's going to be the 300th entry in the Google Graveyard? They're at 293 right now, so I expect we'll hit 300 by April 2024.

Zooming back out to the state of the internet today, I honestly think Google and Facebook are tied for doing the most damage to the internet and society at large. Their pervasive advertising is enough for me to stay far away from them. But their stains run far deeper. Google Search is now completely useless. Everything is a webpage now. I've lost count of the companies they've either acquired and killed or cloned and killed. They've built data profiles to rival Facebook. And Youtube will gleefully auto-play viewers into misogyny, conspiracy, and rightwing fascism.

On Android specifically, Google has been an exceptionally poor steward of the ecosystem. Flagship devices now get a few years of updates, but anything down-market may get a year of updates before being forgotten like the fifth child at an after-school activity. Google could enforce feature and security updates for a minimum period of time, but they've chosen not to. And it's only improved to the shameful level now somewhat recently.

And they've been spreading this fast-fashion/ewaste-speedrun philosophy to the laptop formfactor too. They're goddamned laptops, not milk. I have an Alienware M11x R1. It's from 2010. It still runs Windows 10. Poorly. But it can still get OS and security updates 13 years after release. It's a functional print server for my old Brother laser printer that I bought in ~2007 that only has a USB-B interface.

Beyond the shameful state of Android updates, the Google app store is a fraudulent mess. It's been a problem for years and it's still a problem today. It's impacted millions of users at this point. If the Google Play store is going to be the premier source of Android apps, Google needs to get a lot better at protecting users from bad actors. For devices that contain so much of our lives, failures to protect against financial theft is unacceptable.

And Google themselves are part of the problem. We're over-due for Google's next chat app shakeup. I think. And that's just Google. The phone OEMs can replace it with their own uniquely crappy SMS/RCS/Proprietary pile of crap. Going back to the problem of executive champions and vision, nowhere is than absence clearer than the absolute clusterfuck of Google chat apps.

Finally, I mentioned above that I'm a petty bitch. My family holds onto grudges like most folks hold onto fine tableware or farmland. Case in point: My grandfather got screwed over by a Shell gasoline station. He wrote to corporate to explain the situation, and found their answer... unsatisfactory. Nobody in my family has gone to a Shell station since.

My grandfather died over a decade before I was born.

But I have a very personal grudge against Google. They blamed me for something they broke, and have never to my knowledge apologized for it.

Many, many years ago I worked at a small firm. This was when Windows 7 was at its peak, and Windows XP was still very common/well-supported. We had a line-of-business app that was dependent on certain components of Internet Explorer. If you tried to access the web launcher from something other than IE, it would break in really unpleasant ways. Since some of the LOB usage was time-critical, when it broke it was a priority issue.

This was also the time Google started to spread Chrome like herpes. We weren't a big firm, and we didn't have great tools for controlling third-party applications and their updates at the time. Remember, this was almost 15 years ago. I've learned a lot since then, and the toolsets have improved a lot since then.

So folks would just push the button to update Adobe reader, next next next finish. The work we did was highly technical, and again: ~15 years ago, small business, most folks had local admin. We didn't have the tools to do a good job controlling these things. And updating an existing Adobe reader install would “helpfully” install Chrome and set it as the default browser. The LOB “app” was a shortcut on the All Users desktop that pointed to the webpage.

Google Chrome could not support the critical application. So I'd get a panicked phone call from a user because the critical LOB app was failing. I'd either walk over to their desk or RDC into their machine and uninstall Chrome. They'd go back to work, fill out the time-sensitive information, everyone was acceptably content.

Until they tried to click a link outside IE. Say, a link to something important in Outlook. Turns out, Google did a shit job coding the Chrome uninstaller, and left HTML file associations (what Windows uses under the hood to understand it needs to pass data to a browser) just... empty. And in Windows 7, that leads to a specific error message: “This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.” Hey guess who the System Administrator was. Guess who everyone thought was blocking something they needed to do for work?

Eventually I got the tooling and controls in place to prevent Google Chrome from installing itself where it shouldn't (part of the user profile), and finally blocked the garbage of early Chrome from my corporate domain. It wasn't technically a virus, but it sure acted like one. It sure caused a lot more headache than any actual malware. And I still carry a grudge for the shitass job Google did when spreading their little browser-glitter all over my matte black Thinkpads.

So now my phone is built by Apple. They have plenty of different problems, but Google products are absolutely disqualified.

I really wish Microsoft hadn't given up on Windows Mobile/Phone. A third player with real marketshare would be good for everyone. And comparing the ROG Ally to the Steamdeck highlights how weak Windows is on smaller devices and interfaces that aren't keyboard & mouse. Having an ARM-based processor base would have put Microsoft in a better place to really compete with Apple's M processors. Having an XBox Mobile/Handheld/Go would be amazing. #RIPWindowsPhone

So yea. I don't trust Google for many reasons. Android itself is a mess. And I'm petty as fuck. That means an iPhone is my only option.